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Linku looked intensely at what lied before him. Several weapons were laid out on the floor; a sword, a dagger, even throwing stars. And ahead of him, dummies made from straw. They struck menacing poses, wearing armor and holding weapons like a warrior in battle would wield. But that menace was merely a front. They lacked something vital; they weren’t alive. Linku used to think training with these dummies was adequate, but now he saw it as a hindrance. He never fought an actual being.
‘Forget that’, he thought to himself.
‘What you do now is all that matters’.
The young lion looked once more at the lifeless stand-ins. He then looked down at his weapons. He picked up the sword, looked for a moment at the lustrous blade, set his sights on the targets in front of him, and ran towards them. For a split second, the pleasure of adrenaline surged through his body. The sword was his favorite weapon. He knew just the right angle he needed to attain the most damage. He knew the weak points in the armor, and how to exploit them. In theory, he seemed like a perfect fighter. But anyone can kick the head off a man made of straw.
Linku then looked up at what he accomplished. The dummies lied everywhere, dismembered and decapitated. It’s something he’s done countless other times. But only now does he really contemplate what it represents: the taking of lives, and the risk of his own.
“Nice work” said a voice from behind.
Startled, Linku grabbed his throwing stars and threw them towards the voice. The lion before him grabbed the weapon in mid-air, inches from his face. It was his father; N’Daku, the King of Masai Mara. He had a large presence, intimidating even to the toughest of facades. His mane was thick, proof of his royal blood. Linku’s mane had only just begun to grow, and was nowhere near the grandeur of his father’s. Although the King normally wore extravagant clothing, he came before Linku shirtless, further revealing his intimidating strength. His body was covered in scars, permanent reminders of his past in battle.
It was then Linku realized he almost killed his Dad.
The King of Masai Mara.
“Father! I didn’t see you there! I am so sorry!”
Linku continued to apologize profusely, flustering his speech with ‘uh’s’ and ‘um’s’. His father then cut him off.
“Save it” he said in his thunderous voice.
“How, how long were you watching me?” Linku questioned.
“Long enough” he replied. ‘I see you’re doing some good work, but your throwing arm could use some work. That throwing star should be embedded in my skull.” Linku chuckled awkwardly.
“I’m not sure how to respond to that” he replied. His father chuckled back, easing the tension.
“Come son” N’Daku ordered. “I want to talk to you about something.” He led Linku to the middle of the courtyard, located just outside his extravagant castle. This was where Linku usually came to train. In the middle of it was a huge fountain, depicting in stone several of the past kings: Linku’s grandfather, his great grandfather, and his great-great grandfather. He was the founder of the kingdom, the first to rule the great land of Masai Mara. Linku and N’Daku sat upon the edge of the fountain. After a good thirty seconds, N’Daku began to talk.
“Son, I can tell you are feeling…apprehensive…about what lies ahead.”
“What?! I’m not apprehensive” Linku denied. ‘I am becoming a part of something important, something that so many others wish they could be a part of.”
“Linku, I’m your father” N’Daku began. “I can tell when something is wrong. When I was watching you train, I could see there was something different in the way you composed yourself. It was something in your body language. Are you having any doubts?”
Linku began to think to himself. He knew he was having some doubts, but were they really more than any other his age would feel in this situation? Still, Linku knew that something was bothering him, and the longer he kept it in the worse he knew he would feel.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to fight in battle” he started. His father just looked at him for a moment, showing no emotion. After a bit of time, he spoke.
“I understand how you feel. I remember when I was your age, going through the motions just like you. I was scared then too, I think anyone in this situation would be. But important things tend to be frightening.”
Linku turned his attention to the fountain, pondering over the statues of his ancestors. Each one of them went through the exact same thing. Linku was at the precipice of adulthood, preparing for the time he would one day be king. But in Masai Mara, a king was expected to do much more than rule from a secured throne room. A king was expected to take action; a king was expected to fight for it’s kingdom. And that meant going into the front lines.
No other kingdom expected it’s royalty to risk themselves in such a way. But Masai Mara valued the leadership skills of one who could command in both the castle and on the battlefield. So, for his entire life, Linku had been training. Preparing for the time he must answer the call of his duty. Whenever that may be…
“….This is a very important time for you” continued N’Daku. Linku realized he hadn’t been listening to what his father was saying. He lost focus with everything he was thinking about.
“Linku, are you listening?”
“Sorry father” Linku replied. “I just got lost in my thoughts.”
“Go on” N’Daku persuaded. Linku hesitated for a moment, but realized he needed to get this off his chest.
“I’ve felt so sure about this my entire life,” Linku began hesitantly. “I thought I was teaching myself to be a great warrior; a great leader. I can fight with these weapons, but I feel I’ve learned nothing! What I used to view as strength now mocks me with it’s uselessness!”
Linku continued to pour his heart out, sometimes close to the point of crying. His father usually interpreted these feelings as weakness and would forbid them. But now he just listened as Linku talked. No expression marked his face; he was very good at showing no emotion. But there was something else different about him. Unlike some of the other adolescent problems Linku faced in the past, N’Daku seemed to take this seriously. N’Daku may have forgotten the woes of his long ago youth, but the scars of this transition are still fresh in his mind. And now, he’s seeing them unfold before him in his own flesh and blood.
When Linku finally finished, N’Daku didn’t say a word. Linku waited for a response, but got none. Instead, his father got up, and walked out of the courtyard. Linku just sat there, overwhelmed with anxiety. Unable to understand what happened, he just sat with his head down.
A few moments later, however, N’Daku returned. And he wasn’t alone. Standing alongside his father were two creatures Linku didn’t recognize, a rhinoceros and a crocodile. They were both very strong, built like walls. And they were adorned in armor; the armor of a warrior.
“Come with us” N’Daku said. “Your training begins.”
“It begins?” Linku asked confused. “Then what have I been doing all my life?”
“Hah, that was just a warm up. It just kept you from getting soft.”
Dreary from his lack of sleep, Fisi awoke as the sun coming through his window glared into his eyes.
“And so begins another long and stressful day” the poor hyena thought.
He puts on his clothes, washes his face, grabs a handful of food for breakfast, and heads on his way to the castle grounds. He walks out the door, leaving his house behind. It’s a modest shack at best, big enough only for himself. Even then, it was much nicer than many of the furnishings this area had to offer. It was once a proud village, making money from its strong fishing community. The lake it was built near was once a bounty of life. Fishermen would capture their prey by the net, often having a surplus. But the recent droughts have affected this area greatly. For several years now, the rains have been increasingly inconsistent. There was once a clear ‘rain season’ and ‘dry season’. Now the line between the two blurs. It may rain once or twice a year, but none of it substantial. The lack of rain has made the lake waters recede greatly. To make matters worse, what is left of the lake has been filling up with thick, green algae. The fish have been choked out, and most have died. The fishermen are now lucky to get a single net full.
As he proceeds to walk toward the castle, Fisi continues to notice the droughts effects on this once great land. Once lush and green plant life are now losing their luster. Crops are increasingly harder to grow. He notices once profitable farm land reduced to dry ruin, much like his lake side home. People have been forced to move out and search for greener pasture, outside the boundaries of the kingdom. But the land outside Masai Mara is cruel and desolate. Whereas the drought has only recently hit this area, surrounding nations have felt it long beforehand. All that is left in those lands are starving nomads and thieves desperate for goods.
As Fisi walks through these failing villages, the townspeople look at him in disgust. He can see in in their eyes; their judgement, their resentment, it hits Fisi in his soul.
Suddenly, before he can even realize it, a clump of mud splatters across Fisi’s chest. Fisi looks down at the stain, appalled and speechless. He then looked up, only to take a clump of mud to the face. At this point, any remaining peace is broken. A crowd of villagers run towards Fisi, out to get a piece of him. It erupts into a full on riot, and soon the entire village is in on it. Dozens of creatures begin to engulf him, yelling out expletives and throwing punches. They see all this poverty as his fault; perhaps he’s not completely to blame, but they feel he’s not making anything better for them despite his position. Otherwise things would be different. What hurts Fisi most is that he knows they’re right. He doesn’t even feel the urge to defend himself.
Before too much damage is done however, the chaos is disrupted. Several tall wildebeests come into the crowd, holding the assailants back. They carry spears, and point them towards the still angry civilians. It takes a while to fend off all the aggressive rioters, but the wildebeests eventually gain back control of the area. They then tend to Fisi, who is lying on the ground battered but mostly unharmed aside from a few bruises.
They are his personal body guards.
“Is everything alright, Sir Fisi?” the head guard asked him.
“Yes, everything is fine” Fisi responded, still flustered from what just happened. The attack happened so fast he barely had time to comprehend it.
“I’m sorry we hadn’t come sooner” the guard apologized. “We were held back at the castle.”
“No, it’s alright” Fisi assured. “You’re here now, and that’s all that matters.” The guards then walked him the rest of the way to his destination.
As they get closer to the castle, the scenery almost changes entirely. The small, dilapidated villages have given way for lavish and expensive housing. Fisi could live here; he was paid more than enough, but he’d rather stay close to home. I doesn’t help that he feels he basically just fell into his job anyway.
In this part of the kingdom, he notices something else: the waste of water. Water that can grow crops and quench thirst is used for unnecessary fountains. Any little water there is seems to all come here; and for what? Just to keep things comfortable for the wealthy, and let the rest just wither away? No, he can stand it no longer. The injustice is too great. Those villagers were right to be angry. He may not have a lot of power, but the power he has must count.
“Fisi, my old friend!” exclaimed N’Daku. “Come on in!”
Fisi, now in the castle, has entered the king’s private quarters. They have been friends since childhood. When N’Daku was a young teenager, he ran away from the castle, afraid of his coming responsibilities. He found himself at the fishing district, where he met Fisi. He would eventually coax N’Daku to return home and face his commitments. Although no one else was able to break through to him, Fisi did. He noted very early on Fisi’s intelligence and maturity even at a young age. That always stuck out to N’Daku for some reason. At that point, N’Daku made a promise to himself. Whenever he became king, he vowed that he would personally appoint Fisi as a member of his royal council. He kept that promise.
“Yes, it’s good to see you too” Fisi responded as he extended his paw for a handshake. N’Daku instead grabbed him into a tight embrace. Fisi didn’t feel like hugging back, though.
“So, are you ready to go?” N’Daku asked.
“Yes, I believe I am” replied Fisi. The two walked down the hallway into an enormous room. There was a large table, almost taking up the entire space. There were five seats around it, and at the end were two extravagantly decorated chairs for the king and queen. N’Daku took his seat and Fisi took his, which was at the far end of the table. This was where the King, Queen, and Royal Council would discuss the welfare of Masai Mara and try to resolve issues within the kingdom. But it seemed like the drought issue was constantly being side stepped. Every time Fisi would try and bring it up, N’Daku would sway the conversation a different direction. This strange behavior always got Fisi thinking. Was he hiding something? Or was he hoping the situation would just fix itself?
Soon, the rest of the Council members came in, each taking their seat. There was Dondi, a giraffe, and Ashanti, an elephant. They are both so tall that most of the table’s size was devoted to them. Next to them was Sokwe, a gorilla. His presence is sometimes even more intimidating than N’Daku’s. His short temper may had something to do with that. And by him sat N’Kazi, a buffalo. He was the one Fisi had the most respect for. Out of all the Council members, he seemed to be the most level headed. He has even defended many of Fisi’s arguments towards the Council.
Then, coming out of the hallway was N’Nitsa, the Queen. She wore an elegant gown, flowing all the way to the floor. Her stance was firm and unmoving. Much like her husband, she had quite a presence that demanded respect. And when both step into the room, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Oddly enough, N’Nitsa didn’t have a royal background. N’Daku met her on the same trip he met Fisi. She grew up the daughter of a fisherman. Not having any sons, he would take the young lioness on his fishing expeditions even at a young age. This work gave her an unusual amount of strength, both physically and mentally. This strength attracted N’Daku. Although the males in the kingdom went through many trials and tribulations, the more privileged females seemed to be handed everything. N’Daku knew at a young age that he wouldn’t find a capable queen in that squalor. But it was in that small village that he found exactly what he was looking for. They were together all those years ago, and are still together now. N’Nitsa took her seat by the King. Now that everyone was here, the work was to begin.
“Gentlemen,” N’Nitsa began, in her elegant yet strong voice. “We have a few problems we need to talk about.” Fisi wondered about what unimportant topic they would discuss today.
“We need to talk about riots.”
This immediately got Fisi’s attention. A million questions fired into his head.
Is she talking about what happened to me this morning?
How did she find out so fast?
Are they going to blame me for the riots?
Are they going to punish the villagers, who honestly have the right to be angry?
Suddenly, N’Nitsa turned her attention to Fisi. She just looked at him, as if she was just waiting for a response.
Oh great, they’re going to blame this on me now.
“So, you know what happened” Fisi said to her. N’Nitsa gave him a chilling look before she responded.
“Your escort, the Captain of the Guards, told us about what happened this morning.”
Figures, should have known he’d say something.
Fisi looked over to the wildebeest, who was guarding the door to the Council Room.
Funny, I don’t even know his name. Does anyone know his name? It’s not important, only his title is needed.
“I had no control over the situation” Fisi finally responded. “I walked down the normal path I take, and before I knew it, I was engulfed.” Fisi tried to determine the Queen’s intent. Was she trying to blame him? What point was she trying to get across?
“Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident” N’Daku stated.
“Indeed” Dondi interjected. “Just last week I was shopping in the market place when people started throwing rotten fruit at me.” Ashanti related an experience when she was attacked while just walking in the forest outside her house. While the other council members related similar stories, Fisi started to wonder why his incident was picked out in particular. Was he being singled out for his past outspokenness? Or was this particular riot just one too many?
“This has gone too far!” Sokwe yelled, infuriated. “We can’t even leave our own homes anymore!”
“I agree, Sokwe” N’Daku stated. “But we need to figure out just why these attacks are happening.” Fisi began to rise up.
“I can tell you why!” he said angrily. “It’s this accursed drought that we’re not doing anything about!”
“Watch your tongue” Sokwe warned as he slammed his fists on the table while letting out a huge snort.
“Sokwe, calm down” N’Daku told him. “Fisi, for the last time, there isn’t a drought. We have more water than we could ever need.”
“Yes, you have water. But outside the homes of the privileged, there is nothing.”
Fisi was right. The King’s castle was built in the middle of a large valley for a reason. Whatever water there was would find itself in the lowest parts. That’s why this area was so sought after. While other areas struggled with drought, this area always seemed fertile. This also seems to show how disconnected the Kingdom has become to it’s subjects. They seem blissfully ignorant of what happens beyond their precious castle walls.
“Fisi” N’Daku began. “You have been a good friend to me for a long time, but I cannot just ignore these frequent outbursts.”
“Perhaps he is right” N’Kazi interrupted. “We do have water, but if other areas are struggling what’s stopping us from sharing?”
“If they are truly in need of water, why don’t they just come here?” Sokwe asked. Fisi just shook his head.
“It’s not that simple” Fisi tried to explain. “Lakes are drying up. People rely on these bodies of water for their livelihood.”
“We can’t stop that!” argued Ashanti. “If they can’t make a living there, they should leave.”
“To where?!” asked Fisi. “These people have nowhere to go! They can’t afford to move where the water is, and leaving the kingdom is suicide. As bad as the drought is here, it’s ten times worse elsewhere.”
“So what is it you want us to do?” Dondi asked. “We don’t have the power to control nature.”
“No, you don’t. But we are a government, and we can control what we do from here.”
“If you have a solution we would love to hear it!” Sokwe snapped. Everyone looked to Fisi, waiting for an answer. After a second of thought, Fisi responded.
“I think we should let those in most need of help come and stay here where the water is.”
The council room erupted in argument. Everyone seemed to think it was a crazy idea.
“Order, order!” commanded N’Daku, trying to elevate his voice above the argumentative crowd. Then, he let out a thundering roar, the kind of roar only a lion could belt out. The Council fell into silence, giving all their attention to the King. “Fisi, that kind of plan would be impossible” N’Daku responded.
“No, not impossible. Only inconvenient.” That statement released gasps from the entire council room. Undeterred, Fisi decided to continue. “We don’t need everyone to move into this area. Only those most affected by the drought. There is adequate housing to suffice. And even if there isn’t, the wealthy should have more than enough room in their homes and food on their tables to share. Plus, it wouldn’t be for-”
“I’ve heard enough!” N’Daku roared. ‘I’m sorry Fisi. I thought you had more sound judgment than this. If you continue to speak out like this you’re going to have to give up your seat in the council and cut off your pay.”
“Why even have a council if you’re going to shut me up like this?!” Fisi then turns to the other council members. “Does our input not matter?” he asks. “Aren’t we a government?”
“No Fisi” N’Daku corrected. “I’m the government.” He then dismisses the Council members, and leaves.
And so ends a typical day of work for Fisi.
Leaving the council room, N’Daku heads towards the courtyard to watch his son train. He finds him with Busia, the rhinoceros, and Kisumu, the crocodile. They are some of the strongest fighters the kingdom has to offer. They have both fought in wars, and lead armies in battle. For a future king and warrior, there are no better trainers.
“I want you to forget everything you think you know about fighting” Busia told Linku sternly. “All you’ve ever fought were still puppets. Try your fortune on a real creature.” He then hands Linku a bo staff. “Pretend it’s a sword” he tells him. “You know the spots on the body to hit. You know weak points in the armor. But do you understand living reaction?”
Linku looks at brute that stands in front of him. He stands at least twice as tall, and probably three times as wide. He carries a staff much like his. But the armor he wears is just like the ones on the dummies. So Linku knows what to do, in theory anyway. Linku lunges toward Busia, aiming his staff at his neck. But then suddenly, he finds himself on the ground. He’s pinned down at the neck with Busia’s staff, his strength impossible to overcome.
“You’re dead” he says in his deep voice. He then loosens his grip on Linku and sets him free.
“Well, I was right” states Linku.
“About what?” Kisumu asks.
“Well, I knew fighting dummies all my life would just be a hindrance” Linku answers.
“It wasn’t hindrance” corrects Busia. “You gained some valuable knowledge from that training. At least you actually know how to use a sword.”
“But it’s not just swords or spears you have to worry about” begins Kisumu. “There will be many opponents you will face on the battlefield. Many different species. And each have their own set of skills and unique weapons.”
“Kisumu’s correct” Busia starts. “A crocodile will often use his tail in battle. One swipe will knock an opponent off his legs, long enough to give the final blow. We rhinoceros’ have a naturally made weapon, our horns. Charging head first in a group of soldiers will take many down efficiently and lethally. “
“But that’s not all” warns Kisumu. “Buffalo and wildebeest also have horns. Leopards and cheetahs have speed and agility on their side. Gorillas and apes have both brains and brawns. Birds rain weapons from above. Snakes have venom. And a squadron of elephants are almost a sure win for an army.”
“But lions have weapons too” N’Daku added. “Although we may not be as agile as leopards or cheetahs, being feline gives us an inherit amount of speed. But that’s not all, we also have these.” He extends his paw, and retracts his claws. He then asks Busia to bring in a wooden dummy. With a single swipe, he knocks of its head. Splinters fly everywhere.
“Now ask a cheetah to do that!” N’Daku boasted.
Busia then brings in another wooden dummy. “Now you try” he says. Linku then goes up to the dummy. He looks at his own paws. They are big, but nowhere near as impressive as his fathers. He swipes, and becomes pleasantly surprised. He cuts it off as cleanly and as easily as his father did.
“Wow” Linku says under his breath.
“Wow indeed” Kisumu replies. “You have more strength then you realize.” Linku then takes a glance at his father. He has a look of approval on his face, even cracking a small smile. A feeling of elation overwhelms Linku. He feels like he’s accomplished something great. Not only has he proven his own strength, but he’s also made his father proud. But there was still much work to do.
Fisi awakens to a knocking on his window. Still somewhat dreary, he gets up to see what the trouble is. At the base of his window stands a marabou stork; a tall, black bird with a bald reddish head. Fisi recognized this particular stork; he was used whenever letters and messages needed to be exchanged between long distances in a short time. And it would seem that is just what he is here for. In his claw, he carries a small note.
“I am sorry to awake you” the stork begins. “But the king has personally written this message and directed it to be taken to you straight away.” He hands Fisi the letter with his claw, and then flies off without another word. Fisi opens the letter to read the inscription. It states:
“Greetings Fisi. I am sorry to inform you at such short notice but it has been unanimously decided that it would be best that you do not attend today’s council meeting. We are sorry for the inconvenience, and you will be paid your regular wages for the day.”
‘What is this snake bile?’ Fisi thought to himself.
‘None of this adds up. They could have just fired me after yesterday.
But no, they just don’t want me there today!
They’re even paying me to not show up!
What are they up to? What’s so important; so secretive, that I can’t get involved?
Bitter with anger, Fisi resumes his normal routine and heads straight for the castle.
A piece of paper isn’t going to stop me.
Fisi took his normal route to the castle grounds, this time without any unwanted interruptions. However, once he finally made it to the wealthier neighborhoods, he noticed something strange about the inhabitants. Whenever Fisi would walk through this area before he would just see the local inhabitants happily going along their daily business, enjoying the fruits of their security. But something was different this time around. He couldn’t quite place it, but something was off about their body language. They seemed slightly disheveled, and their expressions gave off a sense of unease. Something wasn’t right.
After some time, Fisi finally makes his way to the castle doors. As he approaches them, he notices two wildebeest guards standing at the entrance. Guards protecting the entrance doors wasn’t anything unusual, but Fisi had a good idea why they where there this particular morning. Undeterred, he walks confidently towards the wildebeests, but unsurprisingly, he is stopped.
“I am sorry, Sir Fisi,” one of the guards says, “but I have been given orders to keep you off the castle property.”
“What’s the issue here?” Fisi questions. “Why am I not able to go to work?”
“Did you not receive your message?” the other guard asks.
“Oh, I did. And it didn’t answer a single thing. I deserve to know exactly what’s going on. now get out of my way.”
Sensing Fisi’s increased aggression, the guards solidified their stance. Fisi tried to push through them, but they stood firm. The wildebeests were quite large compared to him, and Fisi knew he had no real chance in besting them in strength. Despite how much it pains him, at that Fisi internally admits defeat. He cautiously backs off from the guards and prepares to head off in the opposite direction.
“At ease, soldiers” shouts a voice from afar. Surprised, Fisi turns around to see who made the command. It was the Captain of the Guard. “I order him to let him through” he states.
“Our orders come straight from the King” one of the guards responded. “Fisi is not to be seen on the premises.” The Captain looks back, undaunted.
“I am your Captain” he begins. “I order you to let him through!”
“Your authority means nothing over N’Daku” the other guard interrupts. “There is no point in resisting.” The Captain the looks straight into the eyes of the guards. They flinch slightly, feeling a bit uneasy.
“This Councilman must be at the meeting. The fate of this entire kingdom is at stake. Look around you! What this man says today may mean the difference between life and death, both for you and the ones you love.”
The guards are left speechless; they have no idea how to respond to that little rant. But after a moment of thinking, they relent and stand down. The two wildebeest open the castle doors and allow Fisi to enter.
“I heard you yesterday” the Captain said to Fisi as he began to walk into the building. “You need to be in there more than anyone else.”
“Thanks, Captain” replied Fisi, flattered by the Captain’s appreciation. Fisi moved once again towards the entrance, but before he fully entered, he stopped himself to ask of the Captain one last thing.
“Captain, please tell me, what is your name?”
The old wildebeest let out a small smile before he answered.
At that, Fisi continued on his way.
As he walked through the hallways, Fisi noticed that the other guards didn’t try to stop him. It didn’t take long for him to realize that Bulsumi must have already tipped them off of his coming appearance.
Good, at least somebody here is on my side.
Fisi soon approached the entrance of the Council Room. He prepares to barge in, making a dramatic entrance. But something stops him from going inside. He decides he should wait things out, listen first to what they have to talk about. He cuffs his ear to the side of the door and eavesdrops.
The King, Queen, and Council members seem to already be in attendance. It was about mid morning, the normal time the meeting starts. He could hear them rustling around in their seats, ready to begin.
“Everyone, attention please” N’Daku announced. “We come here under trying circumstances. As you’ve noticed, our supply of water has severely dwindled. Fisi was correct about the drought, and now, it is affecting us.”
Fisi listens, surprised that N’Daku even gave him credit. Despite their varied points of view, he seemed to still respect him.
“But do not worry.” N’Daku continues. “There is still some water left. It’s not a lot, but with a bit of rationing, it will have to do.”
“How will the water be rationed?” Dondi asks.
“We are to ration it among the people who live in this area. They still have a chance. If what Fisi says is true, everyone else is beyond saving.”
At that moment, Fisi’s patience snapped. N’Daku flat out suggested that they are to save the rich and let the poor die. And the fact that he used Fisi’s own words to justify his claims just made Fisi sick. This was irresponsibility practiced at disastrous levels.
That was it.
Fisi couldn’t take it anymore. He decided to make his entrance.
The doors smashed into the walls of the Council Room. Everybody’s attention went straight to Fisi. When they realized who was standing at the entrance, their surprised faces turned into utter shock. N’Daku’s face however burned with searing anger.
“Fisi, I thought I made it perfectly clear for you to stay out of this!” N’Daku’s paws clenched deeply into his seat, trying to hold back his anger.
“Yes, you did make it clear, but given your past track record I found the situation would be almost apocalyptic if I didn’t show up. Hmm, seems I was right.”
“We had the situation under control” roars out Sokwe. “Your involvement only complicates matters”
“No” Fisi sneered out. “It seems you need me more than ever. Didn’t you hear your king? I was right, and you people chose not to listen. And only now, once you start feeling a bit of discomfort, you decide to act. But so far, it’s only that, discomfort. I’ve seen pain, desperation, suffering that went on long before now. And you, old friend, decided it was too hard to act.”
“There was nothing we could do!” N’Daku exclaimed. “When will you get it in your head, we can’t control nature! There was nothing we could give!”
“Nothing you can give?” Fisi inquired sarcastically. “What of your wealth, your land, your food?! You had more than enough to share with people. What do you think I do with my money? I don’t spend it on lavish housing or exotic foods; I give it to the people around me, the people who really need it. But my weekly pay isn’t enough to appease everyone. That’s why we need to work together, so we might have a chance to help everyone!”
“In case you didn’t notice, we’re not in a very prosperous position right now” replied N’Daku. ‘The little we have we need to save for those who still have a chance. At least until we can get goods from the other kingdoms.”
Fisi just rolled his eyes at that remark.
“I’m not sure the other kingdoms will be in such a giving mood right now, seeing that the drought is certainly worse elsewhere.”
“I believe he is right” N’Kazi interrupts. “Who would help us, we who started vicious wars against them in order to get this land? Kilimanjaro is probably in the same predicament as we are, and the people of the Kalahari hate us!”
“Not another word!” N’Daku commands.
N’Kazi lifts up his head like he wants to say something, but then just takes his seat. Although he has tried to defend Fisi several times in the past, he is more easily quieted down by N’Daku.
He’s easier to shut up.
Fisi starts to see that this constant back-and-forth arguing isn’t going anywhere. So he tries something different.
“N’Daku, we have been friends for a long time. Contrary to what it may seem, I do respect you, and I know you respect me. Maybe my original plan wouldn’t have worked. But there are still things you can do now. Keeping all the resources for the rich is completely unfair-”
“Do you think I don’t know that?! My hands are tied here! There isn’t enough water to go around-”
“Yes, there is” says N’Kazi.
Everyone’s attention turns from Fisi to N’Kazi now. N’Daku’s face looks like it’s going to explode with fury. But N’Nitsa’s face shows concern and confusion. She seems just as surprised as Fisi was.
“N’Kazi, I told you to be quiet.”
“I’m done being quiet! N’Daku entrusted me with this secret but I can hold it in no longer! The king has prepared for such a problem. The last time our monsoons hit hard, N’Daku entrusted me to lead a group to collect the access flood waters. We purified the water, and stored it at a secret location. There is plenty of water, enough for the entire kingdom if we ration fairly. At least enough until we can get some help from other kingdoms.”
Fisi was completed fixated on N’Kazi’s story, and only looked away once N’Kazi finished his explanation. Fisi then turned his attention to, N’Daku, who looked like he was about to explode. There was no way this was going to end well.
“Leave N’Kazi” N’Daku commanded. “You are fired.”
Fisi looked at N’Kazi’s face and saw many emotions running through it. Surprise, anger, frustration, sadness. But he didn’t say anything. He just bowed his head to N’Daku, and left the Council room. Fisi then turned toward N’Daku, furious at what just happened.
“I can’t believe you would do such a thing! Not only hoarding water in secret, but lying about it to all of us!” Fisi was right. By the looks on their faces, it seemed none of the council members seemed to know about this. Not even Queen N’Nitsa. It was just between N’Daku and N’Kazi. This got Fisi thinking though. N’Daku must have relied on N’Kazi a lot more than he thought to entrust him with that task. And the fact that he kept his mouth shut for this long was surprising. Also surprising is the fact that N’Daku didn’t have him executed for revealing that kind of information. Then again, N’Daku could have easily fired Fisi long ago for his many outbursts, yet still kept him. Despite the varying viewpoints, he sees the respect N’Daku has for them. Respect, but not much regard.
“I had to keep this operation a secret. Do you know what kind of panic we would have in our kingdom if they were to know about this? There would be riots on the streets, people on our castle walls demanding water. Chaos, anarchy, death even!”
“And they would be right to riot. The kingdom keeping things from them that they desperately need. What sane person wouldn’t be angry at that?! But who cares about the people?! The ones who look to the kingdom for the answers, hoping the king has them. But when he doesn’t, they just have to trust he’ll do what’s right. But beyond that, the people have no power. They are like toddlers looking to their parents to guide them. But if the parent can’t, what happens? They die!”
Fisi barely comprehended the words coming out of his own mouth, they came out so fast. But once his brain processed what he had just said, he came to a chilling realization. The people really are powerless. All they can hope is that the King, who’s only right to lead is that he was born into it, does what is best for the people. He can be a wise ruler, or he can be a bloodthirsty dictator. The people have no choice.
“You know what N’Daku, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t just sit here and watch thousands suffer and not do anything about it. I once thought that my seat on the Council made a difference, but obviously I don’t even have a say in matters.” Fisi then begins to walk out of the doorway.
“Where are you going?!” asks N’Daku.
“Where am I going? I’m going to make a difference somewhere. I’m going to help the people you were supposed to. Don’t bother sending me any more of your money. I quit.” And at that, he left.
N’Daku wanted to say more, but thought it would be best just to let him go. As he watched his once dear friend leave, he wondered if anything would ever be the same again.
He looked around the council room. All attention was now diverted to him. Their eyes locked directly at his.
“I know” N’Daku began. “We’ve lost two very important members just now. But I assure you, we can still make this work.”
N’Nitsa just gave him a chilling stare. She had the same look everyone else had. She felt betrayed. They all felt betrayed.
They were betrayed.
“Would you like to tell us about the water now?” N’Nitsa asks.
“You idiot!” Fisi said to himself under his breath. He angrily paced around the forest on the outskirts of the castle grounds, a million thoughts firing into his head all at once.
No job, no money, no power.
No chance to make a real difference.
They’ll evict you from your house.
No, they’ll do worse. They’ll run you off the kingdom.
If they don’t try to kill you first.
Oh Fisi, what have you gotten yourself into?!
Ever more frustrated with the voice in his own head, Fisi let out an infuriated grunt and simply fell onto his knees.
“Fisi, is that you?!” says a voice from behind.
Fisi turned around swiftly, and saw that it was N’Kazi. The buffalo looks at the hyena, somewhat confused. Fisi tries to get a hold of himself, slightly embarrassed.
“Did you see all that, the…?”
“Yeah, I saw a little bit.” They both stood there motionless for a few seconds, waiting for the other to respond. Eventually, N’Kazi broke the ice.
“What happened there?” he asks.
Fisi wasn’t sure where to begin. So much transpired in only those few minutes; to Fisi they felt like hours. It seemed like everything that was bottled up in each person just decided to blow up there, leading to regrets in everyone. But Fisi had to tell N’Kazi something. So he began as best he could.
‘Well, after you left, I sort of quit.”
This set N’Kazi back a little. “You did what?”
“I quit, and they sort of fired me.”N’Kazi’s face then reeked in disappointment, not at all the reaction Fisi was expecting.
“You didn’t do this for me, did you?”
“Not entirely. You were only the breaking point. I’ve been frustrated with N’Daku for quite some time now. Yes, we were once great friends, and I was thankful that he gave me that position, but things changed as we got older. When times were good, we never bickered over policies or anything like that. But then this drought came along. I’ve seen the toil these people were facing long before it made his sheltered life uncomfortable.”
“He’s trying his best” N’Kazi defended. “The King has a lot on his plate, and he’s never dealt with a crisis like this before. People are pulling at him all the time, telling him to do this or do that. With thousands of people under him, he can’t please everyone.”
Fisi thought about this for a moment, thinking how N’Kazi could possibly defend N’Daku right now. But he had a point. N’Daku had never faced a problem like this before. He’s dealt with wars. Battle is what he knows. But being told from birth that ferocity is the only true mark of a king, is that all he understands? He can lead his kingdom against other nations, but can he save the kingdom from within itself?
“What made you come out like that? What made you tell the entire council what N’Daku told you to keep secret?” N’Kazi sighed, and then thought for a moment. A couple moments passed before he decided to say anything. But then, he began to answer Fisi’s question.
“When N’Daku gave me the task to collect the flood waters, I thought the idea was very sensible. I didn’t question it then, and I never did until today. He told me I was the only one he trusted to do the job. I was flattered, and I carried out the assignment without hesitation. It wasn’t until today when he said there wasn’t any water when I realized something. I understood why he entrusted me to handle the assignment. It was my willingness to obey. He told me this was just going to be between us. I never asked why, because I thought it didn’t matter. He knew I wouldn’t ask questions, and knew I wouldn’t dare tell anyone.”
“But you did.”
“Yes, I did, in front of everyone. And I lost my job because of it.”
“But you’ve defended me before. You’ve risked punishment for me!”
“But you would always continue your point. I would let him shut me up. But this time I couldn’t. There was just too much at stake.”
“Well, we both had a place on the Kings Royal Council. We had our chance to make a difference. And look what it got us. We’re jobless, broke, and we’ve got no political power whatsoever.”
Fisi and N’Kazi just stood there for a bit silent, contemplating the situation they were in. They had nowhere to go and nowhere to stay. Now they are just two ordinary subjects, at the mercy of the King’s next decision. Like toddlers with unreliable parents…
“N’Kazi, what are the king’s requirements in becoming ruler?”
“Well, in this kingdom, princes must master the art of battle first…”
“No. Look beyond that.”
“Well, it’s just bloodline. N’Daku’s ancestors settled this land, so it rightfully belongs to his family.”
“Exactly, we are at the mercy of whoever the next one in line for the throne is. The people don’t know how he’s going to rule the kingdom. He can be good, or he can be a tyrant. And the people can’t do anything about it!”
“What are you proposing?”
“Imagine a government where anyone can become leader, a government that doesn’t require you to be born into leadership. Think about it, anyone from anywhere can work themselves up to leadership.”
“And who would choose who becomes leader?”
“Yes, the people. The people need to have a say in how they are ruled. If someone works to become ruler, the population can vote whether they want that person to rule them. They aren’t just forced to obey some person whose only qualification to lead is birthright. “N’Kazi, although intrigued by the idea, didn’t take it seriously.
“Look, it’s a nice idea, but I can’t think of any kingdom that works that way.”
“Not yet, but it can.”
That statement caught N’Kazi off guard. He wasn’t sure what to think of what Fisi was insinuating.
“You’re not thinking…?”
“That’s exactly what I’m thinking!”
“You’re insane. What are you planning to do, overthrow the kingdom? Are you going to try and reason with N’Daku? You’ve already seen that’s not going to work.”
“Maybe not on our own, but if we get enough people behind us, N’Daku may be forced to listen to us. We need to gather some people, get this into their minds. He can’t ignore a thousand angry subjects.”
“It would be easy to ignore us if he has us all killed.”
“He won’t, I know. He respects us too much. But we have to do something. With the information you have, we can gather enough people to create an entire nation, if you would help me.”
N’Kazi still felt the entire idea was suicide, but Fisi brought up some very good points. And when the people lose all their water, a revolution would be inevitable anyway. At least give them a cause to stand behind. After much thinking, N’Kazi gave his answer.
“Yes, I’ll do it. I will help you.”